Meet Michael Crosswaite

Meet Mary Vallely

How long have you been creating art for and how often do you do art?

I’ve created art since I was 19. I was homeless and attending Saint Martins in the Fields and I bumped into a curator called Jaime. Soon I was going to classes there twice a week and we would go to the National Portrait Gallery.

My first show was at The Crypt, underneath St Martins in the Fields. Crisis supported me in getting a grant from Barclays which funded my HND in art and design. After that I was based in Islington and got certificates for clay and for print making.

I was an ambassador for Isledon Road mental health project and went to Germany, to run workshops for fellow artists in Berlin. I’ve also had exhibitions with the 240 Project and sold some art privately. Some of my work is in The Big Issue shop. The MP of Kensington bought one of my paintings, and a therapist! That really sticks in my mind.

What is your technique? What do you enjoy painting/drawing? 

I’m a mixed media artist, I create using anything I can get hold of. I like to work in layers - ink is my favourite but I like to mix and match. Liquorice Allsorts!

What is your best experience or memory associated with art? 

When I was a little girl in Drogheda, near Belfast, in my auntie’s cottage. She bought me my first easel and I just painted the landscape. She had a beautiful cottage. She used to cook everything in big pots on the fire. She was one of my favourite aunties.

Which piece of art are you most proud of / what is your favorite design? 

There are some I really love and some I don’t like. Often the ones that I don’t like are the ones that sell!

I always cry when I sell my artwork because it’s gone, you can never make the same painting twice. I think that’s why all artists are unique.

How has creating art had a positive effect on you?   

It helps me with my depression. The colour that I use makes me happy, and the idea of making somebody else happy. That person might be sad and you might make something so beautiful that they smile, and their depression stops. A doctor bought some of my art once for his little girl who suffers from depression and she loved it.

What made you become a HomeLess Made artist?   

I want to be with other artists and have space to explore. I hope to get my work out there so people can see it, to promote myself and also to help Barons Court Project. I like to diversify and just make beautiful things that people can have in their homes.

Tell us one thing we don't know about you

I’m no good at swimming! I can swim underwater, where I can see, but not on top of the water. I’d love to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef and see all the seashells and the coral and fossils. My art would be amazing then. It’s so sad that the earth is disintegrating.

I’m jealous of David Attenborough - he gets about he does. I’d like to go underwater in his little machine. I’m not even a water sign!

What advice would you give to people starting out with art or who don't have much confidence in their artistic abilities?

I try to encourage people if I see them doing art and give them suggestions. Go to an art gallery and look at other artists. Go to college if you’d like to - or just get some paper and pens and start doodling and colouring.

Lots of people who don’t do art can feel repressed and not confident, but you don’t know how being artistic and creative with other people might bring you out of your shell. Just get a vase of flowers and a big pot of paints and experiment. If you just experiment you could feel more confident. Art is experimentation.

Some people like using art therapy books, there are lots of them about. I think children need to be encouraged to do art when they’re little. I told my sister to get plain wallpaper for my niece to draw on. She’s only five.

What are your interests or hobbies outside of art?

Photography - but that’s art isn’t it? I like writing and going to the cinema. I like any films apart from horror - I don’t like horror or violence. I like comedy, everyone should watch the old greats like Stan and Ollie if they’re feeling sad or pissed off.

I like looking at architecture, all the old buildings. Not enough people look up.

If you could only bring two pieces of music and one object onto a desert island what would you choose?

Freddy Mercury, The Show Must Go On.
Karen Carpenter, You’ve Only Just Begun.
A hairbrush!